The boy who knew too much: a child prodigy

This is the true story of scientific child prodigy, and former baby genius, Ainan Celeste Cawley, written by his father. It is the true story, too, of his gifted brothers and of all the Cawley family. I write also of child prodigy and genius in general: what it is, and how it is so often neglected in the modern world. As a society, we so often fail those we should most hope to see succeed: our gifted children and the gifted adults they become. Site Copyright: Valentine Cawley, 2006 +

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Plagiarism in schools.

Plagiarism is a matter too lightly taken in many schools, in Asia. I say this, because it seems much too common and I rather feel it would not be so, if a harsher stance were taken against it. It is, for instance, almost expected that students will plagiarize, in China - which is famous for this, yet, the problem extends beyond China and is found throughout Asia.

I heard a true story recently which may indicate why plagiarism is so prevalent. In a school, in Malaysia, an art and design teacher caught out a foreign student, in an act of plagiarism. She duly announced that was going to deduct 20% from the piece of work, owing to its lack of originality. Now, that should have been the end of that. The student should have been taught a lesson not to plagiarize in future, for they would be suitably penalized. Yet, that was not the end of the matter. This particular student made a very vociferous complaint about this NEW teacher, to the senior management of the school, for marking her down. Guess what happened then? Please have a think about it.

Well, the senior management had a word with the teacher. She was instructed to reinstate the student's mark and was led to understand that she was not to do such a thing, again.

I was shocked. A young teacher had taken a stand against plagiarism and her school had taken a stand FOR plagiarism: they had dressed her down for her action and forced to go back on her decision.

Now, what lesson did the plagiarizing student learn from this? She no doubt thinks that all she has to do, to be able to get away with theft, in future, is to make a loud fuss about it and complain about whoever finds her out. Thus, is plagiarism encouraged and rewarded.

Plagiarism will continue to be endemic not only in Asian schools, but throughout Asian society, as long as the educational system (and other institutions of the cultures) do not take a stand against it.

In my mind, the greater wrong here, was committed by the manager who decided to force the teacher to reverse her decision. Failing to support a teacher who is trying to instil a respect for originality, is a far greater crime, than the plagiarism itself.

For those who like to know such things, this event took place in a school in the Kuala Lumpur area of Malaysia. However, it should never have taken place at all. I hope this story might persuade other schools to be more supportive of the fight against plagiarism.

(If you would like to learn more of Ainan Celeste Cawley, 10, or his gifted brothers, Fintan, 6 and Tiarnan, 4, this month, please go to:

I also write of gifted education, child prodigy, child genius, adult genius, savant, megasavant, HELP University College, the Irish, the Malays, Singapore, Malaysia, IQ, intelligence and creativity.

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 10:14 PM 


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Valentine,

Apparently, plagiarism is endemic amongst Malaysian academics.


11:51 PM  
Blogger Christine said...

I have a friend here from South Africa who is a professor at a university here in Korea. He has also had many students plagiarizing on their work, and then they complain about getting their grades marked down. And yes, if students complain about their teacher, it is the teacher that is in trouble, especially foreign teachers. This professor was wondering if he was going to get his contract renewed or not, but so far he is still going to teach.
I do find that disturbing. I know that in the West, sometimes teachers are reprimanded from student complaints, but usually it takes many of them to complain or certain serious issues for the teacher to be in trouble. It does make me question the status of teachers here in Asia. If just one student complaining about the teacher, especially over things that are not the teacher's fault gets the teacher in trouble, where is the respect for the teacher's position as TEACHER?
When I first went to Asia, I thought that teachers would be given lots of respect. Koreans even claim that teachers are near gods, especially professors. Yet if students can get a teacher in trouble so easily over things that are their own fault, then where is that hierarchy?
I am working at a high school now, and I feel so exasperated. So many of my students do other work in my class, fall asleep, and do other rude things and I am the one that is no good. They say I need to make class more interesting. HELLO! I am the teacher, and the students are supposed to listen to me! I decided that I am not renewing my contract because I am fed up with being treated like dirt.

8:42 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

I am sorry to hear of your bad experience of teaching, in Korea. I do think that schools, in this part of the world, get their priority wrong.

A standard tactic used in schools by Chinese students, in particular, is to complain about the teacher, from the beginning of the course - so as to cover for their own inability, or unwillingness to do work. Then, when they fail, they blame the teacher - and the teacher does, in fact, get the blame. What is really happening, of course, is that the students are lazy, or stupid or both. (Perhaps I should put this in a post).

What will you do if you give up teaching in Korea?

1:27 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Re. plagiarism amongst academics in Malaysia: I find that disturbing...what's worse is that the government appears uninterested in taking a stand against it.

It shouldn't be permitted at any level, in any institution from staff or students alike.

However, your link may explain why the teacher was forced to reinstate the marks: perhaps others higher up in the school are plagiarists themselves...

1:31 PM  
Blogger Anthony said...

The problem began with "grade inflation". Once upon a time a "c" or "b" was considered good work, now nothing less than an "a" is accepted.

Add to this the modern idea that "all student's are capable of doing and being anything" and you run into parents who do not want to accept that as long as the sun rises there is no way their child will ever be a rocket scientist.

But of course "political correctness" means that teachers cannot be honest about a child's failings and instead must always phrase things so as not to hurt "feelings".

Basically education in Asia is a "smoke screen" of rote memorisation that hides a true inability to apply learning and worse only further masks the fact in most of the countries in this region those high results are not a reflection of the education systems but rather rigorous hours spent in tutoring schools that exist outside the govt. systems and only really show the failing of thus.

4:27 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Yes. I think you are right that it begins with the idea that all kids can do and be everything. This idea is so evidently not true if you have ever been to school (as a pupil) or taught in one. The range of abilities in every school is quite apparent. I have encountered students of high ability, who can do things no other student in their class could do, no matter how hard they tried (and who did it with relative ease) - and I have encountered students, who CANNOT do it, no matter how HARD they try...unless they cheat.

Grade inflation is a silly process because it prevents the ability to distinguish students...which was the whole point of grading them in the first place.

In the case of the student whose complaint I highlighted here, I understand, from the one who told me (a person in the same class), that this student is likely to bully their way through school, pushing teachers into giving her the grades she wants. It is very ugly...and even uglier is that she is getting her way on the matter.

Thanks for your perspective on education in the region. I think you are right: the high grades in this part of the world, do not reflect the corresponding ability to think, that one might expect, in the West, from a person with the same grades. They reflect a lot of memorization and a huge amount of sheer hard work...or cheating, in some cases.

5:25 PM  
Blogger Christine said...

I am not sure what I'll do after Korea. I have put out some resumes here, and I will put out a few more for jobs for the Fall. If there is nothing, then I will just stay in the USA and find a job. I feel a big need to go home for the summer. I have been very stressed out and have had some bad health. I do need a good vacation.
I may still get into sciences. I like those. I'll see.

1:28 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

I hope you find something to your liking Christine. You might find the sciences less stressful (if not teaching too much) and it is certainly not too late to return to them. I did so after a two decade's break! It has been much easier to reintegrate than I thought - and the work is fun, but not as challenging as I would have supposed: just enough to keep me interested.

Best of luck with making the right decisions.

3:55 PM  

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